Fire official’s use of grant investigated |

Fire official’s use of grant investigated

A former North San Juan Fire Protection District board member is the subject of a criminal investigation involving alleged misuse of grant money.

Sandra Rae Yilek, 56, was charged in Nevada County on Dec. 12 with “becoming financially interested in a contract made in official capacity.” She is accused with being paid by the fire district while a member of the district’s board of directors – an alleged violation of the state’s Government Code 1090, which regulates contracts involving public officials.

Penalties can vary with violations of the code, and a conviction can bar a violator permanently from public office.

North San Juan fire board Chairman Bruce Boyd said the apparent violation of state code was an accident and that Yilek did not try to embezzle any money.

“She’s a really astute accountant and worked really hard at keeping our books in order for many years,” he said.

Yilek did not return phone calls from The Union Thursday.

The charge stems from a grant given to the North San Juan fire district by the State Water Resources Control Board through Proposition 204, the “Safe Clean Reliable Water Supply Act.” The statewide ballot measure was aimed at improving water quality. The fire district’s board was allowed to hire paid staff to oversee the funds.

According to court documents, Yilek was a board member between 1992 and 2002. On Jan. 31, 2000, the fire board unanimously appointed her husband, Ed Yilek, to a paid position of project director overseeing Proposition 204 money.

Sandra Yilek asked other board members whether she should abstain from voting because of a conflict of interest, court records state, and she was told by several other board members she should not abstain.

When Ed Yilek died in October 2000, his wife took over the position and got paid while still a fire board member.

Boyd said it was well known that Sandra Yilek was getting paid grant money but that everyone in the district thought it was OK because she filled out Fair Political Practices Commission “statement of economic interest” forms and other disclosures each year she got paid.

On Dec. 1, 2000, Boyd sent a letter to the water control board stating that Sandra Yilek had replaced her husband on Nov. 29, 2000.

According to the court documents, Yilek received $10,009.38 in 2001; $11,990.25 in 2002; and $6,781.96 in 2003.

Boyd said when the potential violation was revealed in January 2003, it was corrected immediately. He said he contacted the county’s attorneys, who confirmed the violation.

“Either she had to resign from the board or she had to stop being an employee,” Boyd said. “Both happened.”

Yilek is scheduled to appear in court and make a plea in the case Feb. 26.

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